District No. 1 firefighters practice search and rescue at Covid-safe training session

Apr 7, 2021

After more than a year away from the old station on Bridge Street, District No. 1 crews are back to hands-on training that was missing during the pandemic.

In the old station’s basement on April 7, crews of two or three firefighters practiced looking for victims in a burning house. To simulate the conditions, the teams wore masks with a “light fog tint” as they crawled around an obstacle course. 

“Our intention is to get them trapped so they have to be creative and get themselves out — just like a real structure fire,” Fire Chief Peter Andrade said.

During the drill, the crew leader would take point with a thermal camera and try to identify rooms and where potential victims could be located. If the camera was obstructed or the leader couldn’t see around an object, he or a fellow crewmate would do a thorough sweep of the room.

“That’s what we do in a house fire,” Andrade said. “Gotta clear every room.” 

Crews also practiced how to drag victims or fellow firefighters out of dangerous situations and how to carry people safely down from higher floors of burning buildings.

Throughout the pandemic, the chief said that district’s training was done online or — for equipment training — in small groups. 

After the district’s firefighters got their second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in late February, training resumed at the current station early last month. To kick things off, the firefighters took part in a small self-contained breathing apparatus drill.

While wearing the tinted masks, firefighters practiced assembling hoses and took their packs on and off, as they have to do before going into or through small spaces.

They also tried to identify other equipment amid the “smoke.”

“We really kind of shut down during Covid,” Andrade said. “But now we’re back to training.”